Kamui Kobayashi says he will not allow speculation about his F1 future distract him from the task of keeping Sauber in the hunt for fifth place in the constructors' championship.
Despite team-mate Sergio Perez now confirmed as part of McLaren's 2013 line-up, the rumour mill refuses to suggest that Kobayashi is safe at Sauber, with a number of possible replacements being lined up to take his seat. Heikki Kovalainen, Charles Pic, Jaime Alguersuari, current reserve Esteban Gutierrez and even Michael Schumacher have all been mentioned in connection with a drive for the Hinwil team next season, but Kobayashi insists that he knows no more or less about the situation than anyone else.
"I have no idea," he claimed, "I think we still have six races left and Suzuka, for me, is pretty important, so I'll just try to focus and think [about the future] later. These two drivers [Perez and Lewis Hamilton] are the first movement [in the driver market], so this is quite exciting for the rest."
Asked, before the seven-time world champion announced his return to retirement, whether he would like to see Schumacher in the second Sauber next season, Kobayashi admitted that it was already a scenario unlikely to happen.
"It's difficult to say, [but] I don't think that's realistic," he shrugged, "I can definitely work [with him], but I don't know [whether he'd join Sauber], we have to ask Michael. I don't know if he really wants to come to Sauber. This is a different story. It's easy to make a really difficult connection, but I don't think he really wants to come to Sauber."
With Sauber currently just 35 points adrift of fifth-placed Mercedes, but still facing pressure from Force India in the battle for sixth place, the final six races of the season take on extra importance for Kobayashi and Perez, but the home favourite says he feels under no greater expectation.
"I don't feel so much pressure, I'm quite relaxed," he insisted, "So many people around me want to be close, but I'm just here for racing. In comparison to the last two years, we've got more experience [of racing here]. In 2010, I came to Suzuka [and had] driven only one race at Suzuka before, so I didn't have so much experience, but now it's my third time at Suzuka and I have more experience - and I definitely have the confidence to do well this weekend."
As Japan's only representative in the top flight, the Sauber driver will also be the centre of attention for the fanatical fans, who were already thronging the circuit on the day before any cars hit the track.
"I think it's more an encouragement, that means it's great to be here, back to Suzuka, which is a really great circuit," Kobayashi said, "Definitely our car could be competitive here as well. After Singapore, which is a little bit difficult circuit for us, [coming] back to Suzuka, which is our best track, I think will be great. And, there will be a big amount of power from a lot of fans and the Japanese people at the race."